The job of reaching the world is too big for any single ministry. I spent 22 years on the mission field with TWR Canada, with the majority of that time in Africa. Media ministry can be very distant, simply by virtue of how far our signals reach. It’s easy to just broadcast a gospel message into a community or region and think our job is done, but what happens when people hear the message?
They call, text, email, and send letters, and someone needs to answer back! If we can prove that we really care about our listeners, that strengthens our ministry.
In closed countries, often you can’t do any more than broadcast in and pray, but where possible we like to have people on the ground. The on-the-ground network has more knowledge of what the people need. This is how you begin a wholistic ministry. Read about an example of wholistic ministry here.
The Idea For Partnership
The idea for partnership, with me, started distinctly in Africa. When I went to Mozambique, we had a studio in Maputo. That studio was co-owned by TWR and Far East Broadcasting. Neither of us could afford to run our own studio, or had enough ministry going on in Mozambique to build our own station, so we split up the languages so there wasn’t any overlap — and worked together.
That partnership stemmed from the 1985 agreement called World by 2000, later called World by Radio, that saw international Christian radio ministries commit to broadcasting in all the major languages by the year 2000. The ministries involved with that initiative were ‘competing’ ministries, in the sense that we all had the same ministry goal, generally asking the same donor base for money. We didn’t reach that goal, but the idea to partner together was born and used effectively, especially in Africa.
I looked at how the Apostle Paul did ministry. He did a certain level of work and left it to the local people. The model of partnership has been there from the very beginning.
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Phil. 1:3-5 ESV
“Partnership only works when both parties benefit. If one party is doing everything that’s not really a partnership, that’s a business relationship.”
Why Should Ministries Share Resources And Partner Together?
1. Meet The Needs Of The Whole Person
TWR Canada partners with The Gideons International in Canada often, and that partnership is what I call needs-based. For example, in Nepal, TWR Canada had a radio program that was reaching people and changing hearts, but the people responded to the program saying we don’t have any Bibles. Can you send us a Bible? That’s not what we do. We’re a media ministry, we don’t print Bibles. So we partnered with The Gideons to get Bibles to those people. What was neat about that project is we could tell The Gideons where every single Bible went because we had an on-the-ground network of listener groups who coordinated the distribution, tracked it, and followed up with those who had received resources.
2. Fill In The Gaps Of Your Own Ministry
TWR has a station, towers, and programs, but if the people don’t have radios none of what we do is helping to spread the gospel. Galcom International is one of our oldest partners. Galcom realized years ago that many people around the world couldn’t afford to buy a radio, or buy batteries for a radio, so they developed a solar powered radio. They’ve supplied fixed-tuned radios for TWR globally for many years. They make sure that when we have a message people can hear it.
3. Partnership Help You Innovate
The nature of radio means you hear it on the radio — once. If you forget or have something else going on – you missed it. What’s really important to remember in oral cultures is that they retell stories over and over and over. That’s how they pass the stories down from one generation to another. Galcom also produces media players that allow us to upload whole program series, including audio Bibles.
If people want to listen to a program 15, 18, 20 times they can do that. They can binge listen to an entire series if they want to. In a closed or restrictive societies where having a print Bible can be dangerous, gospel programming on an SD card the size of your thumbnail reduces the risk. Media players allow us to ensure there’s programming for women, adults, children, and youth – something for the whole community.
We send media players and print Bibles to our on-the-ground networks and know of communities who have taught themselves how to read by using the audio Bible alongside the print Bible. That’s wholistic ministry!
4. Pooling Resources Lets You Get More Done
Working together also makes more sense financially. When ministries pool their resources we can get a lot more done. In these times where many people just can’t give like they want to, we need to be more fiscally responsible with the money entrusted to us. For instance, TWR Canada might have an on-the-ground network in this country that we’ll use to get resources to people, we might join with another ministry and utilize their on-the-ground network to get media resources to them.
Are Things Changing?
It seems like there’s a slow shift happening in the faith-based non-profit world in Canada where ministries are learning to share their resources with partners who have expertise which complements what they do. I’m very encouraged by this development. Because TWR has some good examples of partnerships that work and are mutually beneficial, the organisations we’ve partnered with are now reaching out and creating new partnerships with others.
Do you think Canadian faith-based non-profits do a better job of partnering together, pooling resources, and sharing expertise to further the gospel?